On a western edge of mainland Europe, this pristine trading country is as dotted with windmills and laced with canals as one would expect. But on the changing face of The Netherlands, the windmills are restaurants, the canal barges are tourist tanks, the tulips are growing in the wooden clogs and the tiles are on the wall.
With the landscape being as flat as the pancakes in its numerous pancake specialty restaurants, The Netherlands is a cyclists dream. So let’s start cycling shall we?
Start your tour in Amsterdam, but understand that The Netherlands isn’t just Amsterdam, and Amsterdam is not just coffee shops and red lights. Cycle your way to the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum, and while you are there, add the Van Gogh and Stedelijk Museums, and finish off with a visit to the Anne Frank House. Enough museums for one trip? Take a ride to Keukenhof, also known as “The Garden of Europe”, where tulips don’t just grow in wooden clogs.
Next, cycle down to Kinderdijk and see some good old fashioned windmills. Along the way you can stop over in The Hague and Delft. Further south you can admire the Oosterscheldekering, and understand why the Dutch say, “God created earth, but the Dutch created The Netherlands”. On your whistle-stop tour of the country try to see some of the outlying sights, like Maastricht in the deep south, Utrecht in the centre, or the string of islands in the north. And don’t forget to sample some genuine Dutch cuisine, like raw herring or alternatively French fries smothered in mayonnaise.
Make this little country your first hop stop onto continental Europe. And don’t waste too much time in the coffee shop while you are there. Grab yer bike and go explore!
Highlights from Netherlands
- You can’t visit The Netherlands without visiting Amsterdam. This is the capital with the canals, the museums, the red lights and the coffee shops, the cyclists, trams, pedestrians and cars all madly dancing around each other in mindboggling complexity. You have to see it to believe it!
- Come in spring and see the fields of tulips as you fly in, than make your way to the Keukenhof with its dazzling array of flowers
- The Netherlands and windmills, it is what you expect, and picturesque Kinderdijk is exactly what you always dreamed this country would look like
- Dutch politics and the Royal Family all do their business in The Hague, seat of parliament and home to some fine museums and the International Courts of Justice
- Come and see where Vermeer lived and worked in Delft, a mini-Amsterdam full of canals and crooked houses
- Some of the world’s finest modern architecture can be seen in Rotterdam, the world’s largest harbor
- Go either down to the Oosterscheldekering or up north to the Afsluitdijk to understand the Dutch fight against the sea
- This is a country of beaches, it would be a pity not to visit at least one of the many that adorn the coast, Scheveningen is the most famous, but there are nicer once in the province of Zeeland (aka Zealand)
- Visit the Waddeneilanden, the chain of islands in the north to get away from all the hustle and bustle
- Down in the deep south lies Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands, founded by the Romans. Life is slower and different down here and the mentality more Belgium than Dutch
Hints and Tips for Netherlands
- Everybody speaks English in The Netherlands, in fact a lot of Dutch also speak German and French, so whatever your language you use, you will often find somebody who understands you.
- The Netherlands is a perfect country for cycling, make use of the opportunity. It is cheap and good for you!
- If you want to see the fields of tulips blossom, spring is the time to come.
- An interesting time to visit The Netherlands is during its national day, Koningsdag (Kingsday), on the 27th of April, where everybody dresses in orange, bands play on every corner, and a flea market opens up on every street. Come the night before if you can, as celebrations start early on Kingsnight.
- While soft drugs are legal in The Netherlands you should be wary of people trying to sell you cheap drugs on the street. At best you will be sold some useless herbs, at worst you might end up in hospital.
- A quieter alternative to Amsterdam is Utrecht, only a half an hour train ride away.